A UCL-led study has found that probes designed to find life on Mars do not drill deep enough to find the living cells that scientists believe may exist well below the surface. Although current drills may find essential tell-tale signs that life once existed on Mars, cellular life could not survive the radiation levels for long enough any closer to the surface of Mars than a few metres deep - beyond the reach of even state-of-the-art drills. Lead author Mr Lewis Dartnell said: "Finding hints that life once existed – proteins, DNA fragments or fossils - would be a major discovery in itself, but the Holy Grail for astrobiologists is finding a living cell that we can warm up, feed nutrients and reawaken for studying. It just isn't plausible that dormant life is still surviving in the near-subsurface of Mars - within the first couple of metres below the surface – in the facce of the ionizing radiation field. Finding life on Mars depends on liquid water surfacing on Mars, but the last time liquid water was widespread on Mars was billions of years ago. Even the hardiest cells we know of could not possibly survive the cosmic radiation levels near the surface of Mars for that long."

Posted by johannes to <http://www.monochrom.at/english/2007/02/dig-deeper-to-find-martian-life.htm>monochrom at 2/01/2007 04:45:00 PM
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